Borage (Borago officinalis) – this is a fairly large plant considered a hardy annual started from seeds. Plant seeds directly outside in late spring. It does re-seed easily and quite prolifically. It likes a sunny spot on the edge of the herb bed since it gets rather large, 3 -3.5 feet high. Borage doesn’t require any special treatment and only needs moderate watering. The colorful bright blue star shaped flowers add a splash of color to your herb beds and are great for bees and other pollinators.
Adding edible flowers to your dishes, not just for decoration, will make you look like a “gourmet cook”. Borage flowers have a slight cucumber flavor. Chopped finely, they can be added to a variety of spreads – chicken salad, cream cheese and along with Garden Delights Herb Spread.
The flowers, when added to vinegar makes not only a tasty vinegar but a colorful one as well. Fill a pint jar with ½ C fresh borage flowers. Cover with white vinegar and cover with a plastic lid. Let it sit in a sunny window for a week or in a dark cupboard for 3-4 weeks. Be sure to taste the vinegar to see that you have a flavor that you like. Strain the herbs and store in a glass container. Use the bluish/pink vinegar in salad dressings.
Young tender leaves, as well as the flowers, are good in salads. They can be used pretty much just as you would spinach. Try it in frittatas, pasta dishes and with basil in pestos.
Larger leaves tend to have a prickly feel to them so you may want to stick to the smaller to medium leaves. Chop the leaves and use like okra as a thickener in stir fries and soups.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) also known as pot marigold are often used as a purely decorative addition to gardens. The cheerful bright orange and yellow flowers however, can be used herbally. It is fairly easy to start from seeds and is considered a hardy annual. It will re-seed, so leave a few flowers to go to seed to have new plants in the spring. Calendula likes a sunny spot and blooms all summer until a frost comes, especially when the blooms are kept harvested. The plants grow to 12-85 inches depending on the variety and will grow in almost any type of soil.
Flowers close up at night and open wide during the day. These are the flowers you want to harvest and use for cooking. It’s fairly well known that calendula is found in many herbal teas. But the colorful flowers have a variety of culinary uses, too. In the soup pot, add ½ C of the petals and it will give it a tangy/sweet taste and a golden glow. They make a great addition to green salads. Added to cream cheese or sour cream they are a tasty spread or sauce for veggies. Use in cornbread for a new twist; chop and mash 1 cup of flowers and added to lemon juice and cooked down makes an interesting syrup.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) is familiar to gardeners and herbalists alike. But are you cooking with it? One of our favorite recipes is a simple shortbread cookie to which we add ground lavender buds.
So which lavenders to use since there are so many varieties. Choose the sweet fragrant ones like English lavender and Hidcote. It is a perennial in our area. Plants should be started from potted starts and set in a sunny spot with room to spread out. Lavender bushes can be 18” to as much as 36” tall and almost as big around. They are a super bee and pollinator attractor. The plants don’t require a lot of maintenance except to harvest the buds when they are ready typically sometime in July. For more information on harvesting and drying lavender check out Purple Haze Lavender found in Sequim,WA. They also have a lot of great info about cooking with lavender, including recipes!
Lavender has a unique and distinctive flavor that separates it from other species of mint. It has a floral, pungent aroma and flavor. So when you begin cooking with it, use it sparingly until you find the flavor you like. Remember it is the buds you are using, the leaves are not really tasty. Like the other flowers, it goes well in spreads and butters. Paired with equal parts of sugar, it can be used in baking and salad dressings. For more recipes try these recipes from Mother Earth News at http://www.motherearthliving.com/cooking-methods/lavender-recipes.
Garden Delights has an easy way to get you started with lavender with our Herbes de Provence herb blend. This is a traditional French herb mix that contains lavender along with basil, thyme, marjoram, winter savory and rosemary.
So happy new year and enjoy some new flowery culinary delights.
Resources: The Herb Bible, Peter McHoy & Pamela Westland, Barnes & Noble Books
Homegrown Herbs, Tammi Hartung, Storey Publishing